For the past four years the Trump administration has impeded the progress of the movement to advance human rights in the U.S., perhaps more so than at any time in the nation’s history. According to Human Rights Watch, “the U.S. has continued to move backwards on rights. In its foreign policy, the Trump administration made little use of its diminishing leverage to promote human rights abroad; continued to undermine multilateral institutions; and flouted international human rights and humanitarian law as it partnered with abusive governments – though it did sanction some individuals and governments for committing human rights abuses.”
According to Amnesty International (AI), “the Trump administration launched discriminatory attacks, through both policy and practice, against the human rights of some of the most vulnerable individuals and communities in the USA … At the US-Mexico border, in violation of national and international laws, the US authorities detained, ill-treated and turned away tens of thousands of asylum seekers who requested international protection. As a result, unaccompanied children, families, LGBTI people and others faced abuses once stranded in northern Mexico as well as in US immigration detention centres. The Trump administration also increasingly misused the criminal justice system to threaten and harass human rights defenders, political opponents, whistleblowers and others.”
By the close of 2019, again according to AI, “the US government had broadly disengaged from the international human rights system, including by forfeiting its membership of the UN Human Rights Council and reducing its financial contributions to the UN as a whole.”
During recent years, the David D. Dodge Foundation has made grants to support the projects briefly described below:
- Human Rights Watch San Diego Film Festival and various research projects in the Mideast;
- National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty Justice Powered by Information & Action Program;
- Southern Poverty Law Center Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative and Three Strikes Project;
- Razia’s Ray of Hope Foundation Sports and Recreation and Sponsor a Teacher Programs;
- Equal Justice Initiative Program to End the Death Penalty in the U.S.
New grants were made in 2020 to support:
- Project Shekula – A project to dig and install 111 clean water wells in 80 villages along the west Barotse Floodplain in Zambia’s Western Province in central Africa, and
- Freedom of the Press Foundation project to develop the next-generation of secure communications tools for journalists, specifically the ongoing development of SecureDrop.
The challenge for the new Biden administration will be to unpack and unwind the damage done by the Trump administration’s abusive policies and practices. Trust must be rebuilt within the human rights community to ensure that the U.S. regains its role as a leader in promoting human rights both at home and abroad. Based on just one short week under the Biden administration, I am confident this administration is moving in the right direction. I believe the new administration will assert policies and practices that will align with the efforts of many private foundations, thereby enhancing the impact of their gifts.
David D. Dodge, President
January 28, 2021